Archive for December, 2011

Stances Towards Truth

December 9, 2011

What are the different stances towards truth? I can think of four: relativism, pluralism, dogmatism, and skepticism.

In Relativism, truths are relative to the individual, and may be associated with their personal perspective. Truths are necessarily different as individuals are different and cannot be ranked as to their correctness between individuals.

In Pluralism, truths are separate and may be combined but usually cannot be unified under one overarching truth. Truths are pragmatically different and are true in principle or function.

In Dogmatism or Absolutism, there is one truth, whether we have access to it or not. Truth is absolute and necessarily consistent with itself.

In Skepticism, there may be no absolute truths. Truth is always in doubt and there is no certainty.

I believe that few if any of us are purists with respect to any of these stances towards truth. Each of us combines these four stances into a filter that we use to adopt and maintain our personal ensemble of truths. Some of us may be highly skeptical, with a little dogmatism about our skepticism, plus a bit of relativism and pluralism thrown in for good measure. And so on. Our filter will change depending on how we perceive the current truth of those stances.

Similarly, social organizations may also operate the same way as individuals in constructing a filter towards truth. Whether the organization’s filter arises as an average of the individual’s filters, or from some inherent property of the organization, remains open.

Whether there is one transcendent truth or possibly no absolute truths depends on your valuation of dogmatism and skepticism, respectively. And thus it doesn’t depend on what you or anyone thinks at all.


Perhaps Absolutism would be a better choice than dogmatism in the diagram.

The post The One and the Many may be used to develop these stances better.



Walter Watson and David Dilworth’s Archic Matrix

December 2, 2011

Throughout the history of philosophy, there have been many conflicting stances both towards claiming what exists (ontology), and how we can know our claims are valid (epistemology). There are the oppositions between idealism and realism, between rationalism and empiricism, between thinking all is change and all is changeless, between all is many and all is one, and so on. One approach to overcome these oppositions is to combine them to form their Hegelian synthesis. Another is to deconstruct them à la Derrida. Another pluralistic approach is to consider that there is a germ of truth on each side of the conflicting stance, an aspect of reality for which that stance is valid. Some might think that pluralism is the same as relativism, but it is not. Relativism and pluralism form yet another philosophical opposition like others mentioned above.

Regardless of the validity of pluralism, it can be very useful to analyze what philosophical stances are possible and how they relate to one another. The philosopher Richard McKeon created a rich schema for philosophical semantics that deserves greater recognition. This schema was both simplified and elaborated on by Walter Watson and David Dilworth in their books about the Archic Matrix. There are four main aspects, all exemplified by ancient philosophers: the Sophists, Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Everything else is a combination of these original aspects, or essentially a rehashing of them. The main aspects are perspective from the Sophists, reality from Democritus, method from Plato, and principle from Aristotle. These partition “what is”, however it is conceived, into four aspects, each of which can be interpreted in four different ways.

Considering Whitehead’s Criteria, note that perspective has consistency, method has coherency, reality has applicability, and principle has adequacy.

Walter Watson / The Architectonics of Meaning: foundations of the new pluralism

David A. Dilworth / Philosophy in World Perspective: a comparative hermeneutic of the major theories